Yesterday has been a long day. I woke up at 05:00 and went to bed at 00:30 after driving 1100 kilometers. This morning I wake up automatically at 05:00. Between the curtains I see a vivid orange sky between dark clouds. Immediately I setup the tripod for a few photographs, until I find out that the window can not be opened (-; Better to leave it then. Before I am downstairs and outside, the party will be over anyway. I return to bed and sleep until 09:00. First it is time to get some supplies from a gigantic American store. Always fun to nose around in these.
At the ice department I notice a quite big woman (I will keep it polite) taking a dive into the freezer. I must admit I am a bit curious about what is going to come out of it and stay to watch. A ‘small’ bucket of sorbet-ice of the size we usually buy paint, 15 liters or something. Unbelievable. I take a look myself and it is not special at all, they are all equal in size.
After this ‘adventure’, I take the car to Gardiner, the north entrance to Yellowstone National Park. Here I arrange a room for tonight because it is better not to wait with it. There is no guarantee that I will find one tonight. Gardiner is not that big. The owner warns me for bears, because there are a lot of them here. They often wander into town. He shows me some photographs he has made of them.
Around noon, I arrive in Yellowstone National Park. This is not the best time of the day, but I guess I have to cope with it. High on my list are a couple of vividly colored pools and a few waterfalls. The roadsystem in Yellowstone National Park has the shape of a figure eight. First I go to the south via the west side.
On my way I spot a few bisons, very close to the road. Because of the high contrast difference between the dark black hairs and the bright sunlight, they are very difficult to photograph.
This Bison is changing its winter coat, giving him a somewhat ravaged look.
Black Sand Basin
There are several kinds of geothermical structures in Yellowstone National Park, among which the geyser and the pool are most well known and photogenic. A geyser builds up pressure and releases it regularly via a fountain of water and steam. A pool overflows continuously without building pressure.
Depending on temperature and acidity, several kinds of microbes live here, each having their own distinct color. Some pools are completely blue or green while others have outwards fanning colored bands (blue, green, yellow, brown, red). Most pools contain high concentrations of sulfuric acid and are that acidic that yours shoes would desolve in minutes. Apart from that, they are hot as well, usually somewhere between 50-100 degrees celcius. All pools and geysers have good looking names like Grand Prismatic Spring, Morning Glory Pool and Great Fountain Geyser.
The first real stop is Black Sand Basin, an area with a couple of beautifully colored pools and some geysers. This basin is isolated but part of the Upper Geyser Basin.
Emerald Pool measures around 8 by 11 meters, is approximately 7.5 meters deep and has an average temperature of 68 degrees Celcius. The yellow and orange colors of the bacteria combined with the reflection of the blue sky result in the emerald green color of the water.
A closer look at the drainage stream.
Sunset Lake is much bigger and measures around 44 by 58 meters, is approximately 7 meters deep and has a higher average temperature of 82 graden Celcius. Water from Sunset Lake flows to both Iron Creek and Rainbow Pool. Sunset Lake erupts occasionaly spouting water up to 3 meters high.
Details of the Sunset Lake floor.
Curly patterns and colors. In hindsight I should have used a wider framing to be able to turn the photograph around 45 degrees clockwise. This way the hole would be oriented as it should be. But sometimes those tantalizing colors and patterns hypnotize you and make you think not straight (-;
Waves of steam emerge from one of the other pools, Rainbow Pool, making photography virtually impossible. It is very nice to stand in the middle of them. You feel alternately wet warmth and dry cold on your skin. The smell is like rotten eggs because of the high concentration of sulphur, but that is doable.
Rainbow Pool is smaller again and measures around 30 by 40 meters, is approximately 7 meters deep and has a somewhat lower average temperature of 72 degrees Celcius. The edges of the pool have the colors of the rainbow, hence de name of it. Rainbow Pool erupts occasionaly as well, spouting water as high as 8 meters.
This pool has underground connections with Green Spring and Handkerchief Pool. The latter was very popular around 1900. Tourists would drop their handkerchief at one side of the pool, after which it was pulled under by convection streams. After a while it would reappear on the other side, laundered completely clean. Handkerchief Pool was ruined by vandalism and is out of reach for tourists nowadays.
Cliff Geyser has an average temperature of 88 degrees Celcius and has an irregular eruption interval of somewhere between 30 minutes and 18 hours. An eruption can take anywhere between 30 minutes and 3 hours, spouting the water 12 meters high. This geyser can remain dormant for periods of weeks to even years.
In the parking lot I make a little mistake. I close the back door of the car, to discover that all doors are closed and the keys are on the back seat… Happily this is the very first time they gave me two keys with the car and I have been smart enought to keep them separately in the pockets of my trousers. This could have ended worse (-;
West Thumb Geyser Basin
I continue to the south east of the park, to West Thumb Geyser Basin. This area is not that kind of special, photographically speaking that is, with the Fishing Cone as a very photogenic exception. This is a geyser in Yellowstone Lake. The story goes that you can catch a fish and immediately cook it on your hook in the geyser.
I seem not to be able to find the Fishing Cone at all. I do find its less attractive larger brother, the Giant Cone, though.
Abyss Pool is a crystal clear blue pool with lots of steam. With a depth of 16 meters it is the deepest pool in Yellowstone. It has an average temperature of 78 degrees Celcius and measures 9 by 17 meters.
After wandering around a bit I am still determined to find the Fishing Cone. I am very sure, it must be here somewhere. A bit later I discover it and it is completely submerged. The water level in Yellowstone Lake is a lot higher in spring then in autumn. You can still see it, but there is half a meter of water on top of it. Last time I have been here was in autumn.
Above West Thumb Geyser Basin on the way back, I find a wide view on Yellowstone Lake. Here I create a large panorama. The light has a nice warm character because the end of the day is close.
I follow the east side of the loop road back to the north and spot a black bear somewhere halfway. I manage to be in time for an open view on Hayden Valley during sunset. Nothing spectacular, just nice.
On the other side of the road is a little pond, that is mirroring pink clouds.
Continuing to the north, back to Gardiner, I spot a little pond mirroring the dark blue sky. This is one of those opportunities that happen while driving around after sunset. Skies can have impressive coloring up till 45 minutes after sunset. Usually it is better than the sunset itself. I shoot a few nice silhouets of barren trees against a vivid blue sky.
This type of photograph can easily be manipulated into a nice warm sky. This did not happen at the time for real, but it could…and I like both variants.
Maps, Charts & Downloads
GPS Map with color coded altitude information
Color coded distance/altitude chart
Download the original gpx file here.